First-born twins of Moab Valley, Thomson twins Henry Robert (left) and James Holyoak (right), in 1897.
June is the month of twins -- referred by the Zodiac as the month of Gemini. And according to astrologists, more twins are born in the month of June than any other month. But not in Moab.
Recent announcements of family gatherings to celebrate the 80th birthday(s) of two sets of twins in Moab piqued the interest of this writer, herself a twin born in Moab -- to try to get a handle on how many twins can be counted as having been born in this area back to the first set born in 1897.
Unfortunately, institutional records of twin or multiple births in Moab and Grand County are slightly misleading since 1996, because the local hospital started sending expectant mothers carrying twins (or more) off to other hospitals for the births, for fear of complications that Moab’s delivery room lacked the equipment to deal with.
But essentially, even if you were not actually born in Moab with a twin in the past 14 years, you are still considered a native if your mother lived here. Cynthia Robison, research assistant at the Utah Department of Vital Statistics, said a Moab child’s birth certificate will state the birth as Moab, for statistical purposes, even if the actual delivery was elsewhere.
“The birth certificate is more concerned with occurrence,” Robison said. “The first part is the birth record - who’s the mother, the father
and the other part is statistical. It would say (the birthplace) is where the mother resided, in what city and county.”
She said the most recent statistics for Grand County show four babies delivered in the multiple-birth category in 2008, or 1.6 per thousand population. Robison cautioned that the figures are derived from a district-wide population of 11,401 -- including Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties in the Southeastern Utah Health District.
Being a twin born during the Uranium Boom in Moab, it seemed to me in retrospect that there were lots of us twins born back then. Off the top of my head, and with a little nudging of memory from others, I remember Ila and Ella Stewart in particular, because my twins sister ViviAnn and I often played with those two other little blondies.
The June-born author Vicki Barker and her twin sister, ViviAnn (Rose), at age 21 months, were a front-page photo feature in the Moab Times-Independent issue in March 1956, enroute to an Easter parade (Vicki is on the left). From the Barker Family Collection
Around our age there were also the Downard twin girls, the Costanza boys, the Holyoak boys, and eventually the Monniere twin girls, who were move-ins. Recently, I’ve been reminded of the Montoya twin girls, born here in 1984. Two other sets of twins have been born into the Swasey/Beeman lineage, in the ‘80s and in 2003; and school employees remember the birth of twins to Jamie Carter in the 2004-05 year, when she went to Salina for the delivery.
Obviously, without a formal poll and research on 100 years of births in Grand County, figures on twins born in Moab since James and Henry Thomson in 1897 must be mostly calculated guesswork and lots of phone calls. The ladies at the high school say there is a writer doing research on twins who may eventually pin down the numbers.
A current count of twins attending local schools helps shed some light on how many multiple-births may have been occurring over the past 14 years since deliveries were discontinued at the local hospital, though the count may not reflect if the twins are considered native-born or emigrant.
There were nine sets of twins attending school the past year at Grand County High School, according to records reviewed by counselor Peggy Nissan and secretary Libby Vaccaro. One set of twins graduated in May.
At Red Rock Elementary, there is a set of twins heading into third grade next year; another set (who moved here with their family) will be in second grade; and a third set entering kindergarten. High school Principal Steve Hren and his wife Deb are new parents to 4-month-old twins, and two other sets of twins were born to local residents on the same day last October: twin boys to Jenna Woodbury and her husband Brian Lugers; and twin boys to Jeremy and Tara Marshall.
Jill Dastrup recently added another set to the twin population. The Woodburys say they know of an employee with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who also just had twins.
Twins Larry “Little Beef” Stocks (left) and Lee “Big Beef” Stocks (right) in cowboy hats and coveralls, celebrated their 80th birthday in Moab in April.
Connie Wilson, nurse manager of labor deliveries at Allen Memorial Hospital, is looking forward to the new hospital being completed with the necessary pediatric devices to address potential complications and allow local multiple-births. Wilson said the hospital stopped doing deliveries in 1994, then started again in 1995, but only handling low-risk births. The hospital dealt with one scheduled C-section delivery in 1996 that was a surprise, she said, and since then evaluates multiple-birth pregnancies for potential problems and sends the mothers to other hospitals in time to avoid surprises and enhance chances of successful deliveries.
For example, risk of complications sent local resident Brandy Lillibridge-Dalton to Grand Junction, Colo., for delivery of her twins in 2002. Their mother said her identical twins Jonathan and Joel ran the risk of strangulation during birth because the umbilical cord had twisted around their necks.
One of Moab’s first-born twins, James Holyoak Thomson later had twins with his wife Ellen in 1930 in Canada -- Marie Thomson (right) and LaRee Thomson Anderson, who now live together in Moab and celebrated their 80th birthday in May.
Two sets of twins from the past recently celebrated their 80th birthdays in Moab: Lee and Larry Stocks; and Laree (Anderson) and Marie Thomson, whose father James Holyoak Thomson was one of that very first set born in Moab. James Thomson eventually left Moab and in 1930 saw the arrival of his twin daughters, LaRee and Marie, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Both ladies moved to Moab and now reside together here.
LaRee Thomson-Anderson, who unfortunately lost a set of triplets during delivery in 1956 in Denver, says that both sides of her family have produced a lot of twins since the first ones in 1897. There have been 16 sets of twin boys born on her mother’s side alone. Her mother’s sister had two sets of identical twin boys, that same aunt’s oldest son had two sets of identical boys, LaRee and Marie’s uncle on their mother’s side also brought identical twin boys into the family, one of whom later had identical twin boys with his wife.
While twins might seem overwhelming at first, 80-year-old twin Lee Stocks recalls what his mother once told him, which echoes what my own mother Dixie Barker-Barksdale has told me:
My mother always said, “It’s easier to raise twins than a single baby, because they entertain each other.”
In 1948, five sets of twins attending Moabs high school posed for the camera (left to right): Larry and Gary Day, Joe and Jerry Stocks, Connie and Bonnie Stocks, Richard and Robert Downard, and Larry and Lee Stocks. Soon after came twins Alene and Alan Stocks.